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I'm new to staining and wood projects, but jumped at the opportunity to purchase an unfinished dining room table for my family and get a bit of DIY experience under my belt.

My mother-in-law came to visit and helped with staining the table and chairs as she reported having a lot of experience. Well, it turns out she doesn't and did a sloppy job. Now I have a lot of streaks and areas that look darker than others. Additionally, there are a few spots that look like they didn't absorb the stain at all. I don't know if they are imperfections in the wood or issues with something being spilled on it before it got to us?

I'm wondering what my next step should be. We used a gel stain and ragged it on. Watching some youtube videos, I don't think we had the right application at all as we applied it lightly and didn't wipe it off at all. We didn't apply a poly or anything yet. Should I just apply another coat of stain? Would that look odd in the streaked area and splotchy parts? Or do I need to sand or strip it down before starting over? Would a liquid stain be better for a beginner to use over a gel?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
 

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If I had a unfinished furniture set to finish the first thing I would do is re-sand it. There is no telling how much the furniture was handled before you ended up with them and the skin oil can affect the finish if there is enough. I sounds like most of your trouble is how the gel stain was applied. You don't work gel stain like a wiping oil stain. You brush it on like it was paint and let it dry. There is no way to get the color uniform wiping it with a rag unless you wipe all the excess off. At this point you might wash the furniture down with lacquer thinner and see if you can get the excess off. If that works then use the gel stain with the softest brush you can find and apply a thin even coat. If then you get the color uniform then procede with a polyurethane.
 
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